Matthew Munson: Hybrid working and supporting children in the care system

Matthew and Bryan

Working from home is not something I’d ever thought I’d do. Some of my jobs in my 26 years of work (I started at 16; I’m still young, you understand) have been in face-to-face customer service, so it’s impractical to imagine ever being able to do that from home. Having said that, I once saw a GP surgery (not locally) with a computer screen at reception and a woman staffing it clearly from her front room. Each to their own, I suppose.

I liked going into the office. I liked talking to and meeting with people and being able to share ideas more easily. Some colleagues in the past worked a couple of days a week from home, but I always resisted it. Being in the office was just right for me.

Then the pandemic hit, and we didn’t have any choice. Many of us had to work from home, and those that still needed to go into the office deserve our utmost respect. I struggled to adjust at first; my son was trying to get his head around home learning whilst I got my head around home working, so it wasn’t always an easy balance. Pile on top of that the daily R rate, rising death rates, and the anxiety of this airborne disease made it all rather stressful, at least in my head.

But something began to gradually change, at least in Casa de Munson. I adjusted more to home working. It allowed me to focus on the relationship between me and my son, allowed me that extra time to do a little something for myself before work and after Bryan had gone into school. I became very open to the idea of home working, so much more than I had ever been – who’d have thought I could be grateful to the pandemic for something?

I like working from home now. I don’t know if I could ever go back into the office on a permanent basis. A hybrid approach would always be attractive, but permanently office-based? No, I don’t think that would work for me.

I went into my office this week and spent time with colleagues. I’m fortunate that I like my colleagues and respect what we do – supporting children in the care system and in a special needs school – so there’s no hardship there. It’s based in a semi-rural part of Ashford, so for someone like me who doesn’t drive, it can be hard to get there quickly or inexpensively. But it is worth going in; to spend time with your colleagues, to share ideas, and work in a converted mansion. It’s the little pleasures in life.

I would hate, however, working purely from home and never going into the office. I’d miss that human interaction. As much as I love my son, it’s right for both our mental health that he’s not the sole source of humanity I speak to every day. Fortunately, I have some good neighbours, and going to university helps. That’s one reason I decided to go to an in-person university rather than the Open University; I wanted to meet people with similar interests to me, and perhaps even meet different types of people as well. I’m something of an introvert, but even I recognise the importance of spending time with people.

Speaking of university, I’m in the process of doing the first lot of homework I’ve had to do in about 26 years. It’s not particularly jarring, as it’s mostly creative (with one essay as well), and I’m pleased at how quickly my brain is accepting the work. I’m still anxious about my essay, and have so far put it off, as there’s a particular style of referencing that I haven’t got my head around yet. I’ll manage – it’s certainly no complaint – and it’s just a process of learning new things. University should be a place where you’re challenged and you’re stretched – what’s the point of going if you’re not going to allow yourself to be taken out of your comfort zone at least a little? – and it’s nice to be using my brain.

My son takes great delight in the fact that I have to do homework as well now. That certainly won’t stop me from reminding him to do his, however.